Union of India vs Central Information Commission & Another
DATE OF JUDGEMENT:
22nd March, 2022
Justice Manmohan and Justice Sudhir Kumar Jain
Union of India (Appellant)
Central Information Commission & Another (Respondent)
This case dealt with directorate exemptions of RTI Act when information related to human rights violation. The Court held that a narrow and pedantic meaning cannot be assigned to the expression “human rights”.
1. Respondent No. 2 was employed by the Enforcement Directorate ('ED') as a Superintendent in Administration. She had requested the following information under the Right to Information Act of 2005:
- copies of all seniority lists, in respect of LDCs from 1991 to the present;
- copies of all proposals for promotion of LDCs placed before the DPC, along with copies of the Minutes of Meetings and copies of the promotion orders issued on the DPC's recommendations from time to time.
2. CIC directed the Appellant to provide the aforementioned information to respondent no.2. The Appellant had filed a writ petition, W.P.(C) 13257/2018, in response to the stated judgement however, it was dismissed.
- Section 24 of the RTI Act exempts intelligence and security organisations from the purview of the Act and hence, puts a bar on the amount of transparency in the government and several public authorities and by extension, a bar on democracy itself.
- Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act exempts the information which would cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of individual unless the PIO or the appellate authority is satisfied that the larger public interest justifies the disclosure of such information. It is to be noted that this section is specifically concerned about “the privacy of individual and no other bodies or institutions
- Section 11 of the RTI Act provides procedure for disclosure of ‘third party’ information.
- Section 2(1)(d) of the Protection of Human Rights, 1993 Act defines ‘human rights’.
- Whether non-disclosure of the information would be a human rights violation in this case?
- Whether information pertaining to proposals for promotion of third parties can be provided to the respondent in view of Section 11 of RTI ACT, 2005?
ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT
- 1. The Appellant's counsel argued that, in issuing the impugned order, the learned Single Judge decided that the material sought by respondent No.2 did not fall under the purview of Section 24 of the RTI Act. He contended that the learned Single Judge erred in determining that the information should be supplied to respondent No.2 because it did not pertain to the Appellant organisation's intelligence, security, or secrecy.
- 2. The Appellant's learned counsel argued that Section 24(1) of the RTI Act specifically excludes intelligence and security agencies listed in the Second Schedule from the Act's scope. He argued that the Legislature has granted complete immunity to the organisations included in the RTI Act's Second Schedule, and that they cannot be forced to divulge information under the RTI Act's requirements. He further claimed that the only exceptions to Section 24's proviso are where the information sought is related to charges of corruption or human rights violations [first proviso to Section 24 (1)].
- 3. In Dr. Neelam Bhalla Vs. Union of India and Ors., LPA 229/2014, the appellant contended the learned Single Judge in this case remarked that the information sought by the appellant/petitioner did not pertain to corruption or human rights breaches, and hence did not fall within the proviso to Section 24(1) of the said Act.
- 4. The Court concurred with the single judge that the material requested by the appellant/petitioner related to her service record and had nothing to do with any allegations of corruption or violations of human rights. As a result, both the CIC and the learned Single Judge were justified in concluding that the requested material would not be covered by the Right to Information Act.
- 5. In Esab India Limited v. Special Director of Enforcement & Ors., 2011, a Division Bench of the Court had upheld the Constitutional validity of Section 24 of the RTI Act.
- 6. By the impugned judgement, the High Court issued an interim order directing the Appellant to provide the information requested, such as Seniority Lists and DPCs, as required by the Right to Information Act. The RTI Act was not applicable to the Organisation/Department in this specific matter on behalf of the Department. Regardless of the foregoing, the High Court has ordered the Appellant to provide the documents requested under the RTI Act without ruling whether the RTI Act is applicable. The High Court was supposed to address the matter of the RTI Act's applicability to the Organization/Department first.
- 7. The Court observed that the appellant is an intelligence and security organisation specified in the second schedule of the RTI Act and is exempted from the purview of the Act except when the information relates to allegation of corruption and human rights violation. The term ‘human rights’ cannot be given a narrow or pedantic meaning. Human rights are both progressive and transformative in the present case and non-supply of information/documents is a human rights violation as in the absence of the same, respondent No. 2 wouldn’t be able to agitate her right to promotion and information pertaining to proposals for promotion of third parties cannot be provided to the respondent in view of Section 11 of RTI Act.
It is believed that employees of a security establishment cannot be denied their fundamental and legal rights just because they work in an intelligence and security establishment. To believe otherwise would be to believe that persons who work for these organisations have no human rights. Human rights are fundamental rights that are necessary for a person's growth as a human being. The Constitution protects fundamental rights such as Fundamental Rights and DPSPs. Fundamental rights have received more attention, and they are directly enforceable in a court of law. A thorough examination of Parts III and IV of the Indian Constitution reveals that these two sections encompass nearly all of the rights outlined in the UDHR (Universal Declaration on Human Rights). The judiciary has also taken significant moves, such as modifying the norms of 'locus standi,' so that anyone other than those who are affected can now approach the court.
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